SRAS students featured in a local Vladivostok newspaper

Translating Mandelstam in Vladivostok

Published: March 13, 2012

Translating Mandelstam
Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service

One of the things that I enjoy about the Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service is how the Russian language department there is always trying to involve the international students in cultural events.  Whether it’s a weekend trip to an archeological dig site, or a visit to the theater to see a movie about an historical figure from the 18th century, the teachers try to cultivate a love of both the Russian language and culture.

During the first semester, we SRAS students were told that we would be participating in a conference/celebration of the 20th century poet Osip Mandelstam.  We were given two tasks for this event.  First, as a group, we were to memorize and recite one of Mandelstam’s poems at a conference in mid-October.  Second, we were each given different poems to translate, with the council of one of the department’s teachers.

The four of us Americans, along with other international students, VGUES faculty, Vladivostok news agencies, and important, local figures in the world of poetry, gathered around the university’s statue dedicated to Mandelstam to enjoy a short reading of some of the poet’s most famous lines.  Despite our nerves, we stood in front of the news cameras and recited our poem from memory.  After the event, we were all interviewed by different local news stations, which were shown that night on TV.

Then, recently, we were informed that our poems had been published in a book, and that the school was going to be hosting a small event to present our translations to representatives of our native consulates.  I was asked to represent America, and ended up giving a short speech about my experience translating one of Mandelstam’s poems.

I was really glad that the school gave us this unique opportunity to not only experience a point of cultural pride for Vladivostok, but to also share it with our native peoples.  I briefly spoke to a representative from the US Consulate after the event, and he expressed his great appreciation for our hard work in spreading Russian culture to the English-speaking world.  This event was truly a fantastic cultural event, as it allowed us SRAS students to show to both our own culture and the Russian people that we were interested and actively participating in an important part of the local culture.

Below are the links to the university’s coverage of the events:

Mandelstam Conference and Reading

Presentation of students’ published translations

About the author

Michael Smeltzer

Michael Smeltzer has degrees in Russian Language and Philosophy from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. He has previously studied abroad in Irkutsk and is currently spending an academic year in Vladivostok as part of SRAS's Home and Abroad program.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar: $10,000 to Study Abroad

View all posts by: Michael Smeltzer